Bridging gaps in distance learning

Teacher’s Viewpoint by Maria Rossel C. Lao, HHIS

The author, a Grade V teacher of Highway Hills Integrated, is a winning school paper adviser and coach not only in the division level but in the regional and national levels as well.

TO CONTINUE education despite the pandemic, the Department of Education (DepEd) shifted traditional face-to-face classes into distance learning modality where learning takes place between the teacher and the learners who are geographically remote from each other during instruction for the school year 2020-2021. With this shift in the delivery of education, students have a hard time coping with different problems brought by new normal education.

 Most students in urban areas have blended learning experiences or a mix of online distance learning, modular distance learning, and TV/Radio-based instruction. However, even residing in an urban area like Metro Manila, they are still experiencing poor internet connection.

Even if the Philippines’ rank increased from 111th to 86th spot in the global internet speed among 140 countries tested, according to the Ookla report in January 2021, still our country’s internet speed is far behind other Southeast Asian neighbors. Therefore, most students who rely on the internet during their synchronous classes encounter lesson disruption or inability of attending their lessons.

Pandemic not only claimed lives but also livelihood among Filipinos. This resulted in an increased number of underprivileged families. And because they are needy, they considered internet or data connection as an additional burden to their family’s budget. 

To resolve this, most schools’ General Parent Teachers Association (GPTA) projects focus on load assistance to help poor but deserving pupils attend their online classes. However, due to restricted resources, only a limited number of underprivileged pupils were assisted in load allowance. So many pupils do not regularly attend their synchronous classes since they cannot afford internet or data connection.

Teachers’ way of teaching also changed to respond to the need for distance learning. Aside from the usual facilitators of learning, they also need to be versatile in assessing the learner’s performance by providing activities and performance tasks. However, these assessment strategies were misunderstood by students as excessive work for them to do.

Given the limited synchronous time, most tasks in each subject were done asynchronously and since the teacher and the learner are geographically remote from each other, parents were great partners of educators in the new normal setup. To minimize the number of tasks given to the learners, DepEd introduced Integrative Assessment among teachers wherein the task given to the learners can cover different subject’s assessments.

The last but alarming issue raised by the students is the poor transfer of learning. Most of them were saying that they are having a hard time understanding their lessons. They said that the contact time with their teachers was not enough, and classes conducted on messenger platform cannot facilitate better transfer of learning.

For this reason, the education department is offering a lot of means in the transfer of learning like Deped TV, localized video lessons, open educational resources and E-tulay to aid the teachers’ primary efforts in imparting knowledge remotely to their learners.

Learning in the new normal setup is challenging. There are a lot of obstacles that we need to overcome. Since there is a possibility that distance learning will still be implemented, students are raising these concerns for the DepEd to address and improve next school year. 

As the adage goes “It takes a village to raise a child”, teachers, home learning partners, school administrators, community leaders and DepEd officials need to cooperate for the successful implementation of distance learning in the country.

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